Whenever I am asked to help someone start a running program or train for their first race, I like to share one of my favorite anecdotal tales:
“Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up and knows that it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up and knows that it must run faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are the lion or the gazelle when the sun comes up, you better start running.”
Let’s be honest…running isn’t always fun. I am a runner, and truth told, I can remember a time or two when it was downright miserable. However, there is something about waking early when most of the world is asleep, lacing up my shoes in time to feel the cool morning air, and hearing the sounds of nature coming to life around me. My love for running wasn’t immediate and I certainly wasn’t good at running the day I started. For most people, it takes time and effort to reap the benefits running can provide. I have spent many years figuring out what keeps me motivated while trying to find a balance in how hard I can push my body without injury. What works for me, may not work for you. Maybe running is not your thing. No worries, you are not alone.
Whether it be running, walking, swimming, cycling, or any other moderate-intensity workout, according to the CDC, nearly 80% of Americans do not meet the goal of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week.
A recent poll asked Americans why they did not exercise. Surprisingly, “I don’t like to exercise” came in behind “I don’t have time” and “I’m too tired.” Albeit, “I’d rather watch Netflix,” was not too far down the list.
It’s not that we all haven’t heard we need to exercise to be healthy, but it appears exercise is not on the top of most of our to-do lists. If you find yourself somewhere in the “I hate exercise and I’d rather watch Netflix category,” here are a few things that might help:
What’s your thing?
Running happens to be my thing, but running might not be your thing. What is your thing? Finding an exercise that you enjoy is key.
Did you like to Roger Rabbit, do the Twist, or dance the Samba back in the day? Try Zumba.
Were you on the swim team in high school, need a low impact sport, or just like doing your hair twice daily? Maybe aqua aerobics, or better yet aqua Zumba may be your jam.
Perhaps having an outfit (you call a kit) that looks like you are a member of a racing team, sounds like fun–try cycling.
Are you motivated by competition? Try signing up for a 5K or a mini-triathlon.
Make exercise a priority. Make it part of your everyday routine. It can take a while for a new behavior to become a habit, so give yourself time to get into a regular routine. One way is to try to be active around the same time each day. Another way is to schedule a weekly class or schedule a repeating exercise date with your friends. You are much less likely to cancel on a friend than to cancel on yourself. Once it becomes a habit, you will miss it when you are unable to exercise. Jim Ryun, the first high school athlete to run a sub-4:00 mile, said, “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”
Never give up. Keep trying.
If you tried running, and you really did hate it, then try something else. If you have had an injury in the past, and are afraid of being hurt again, try swimming, walking, or the elliptical. Just because you haven’t liked or done well with keeping an exercise routine in the past, does not mean it will not stick this time.
Thomas Edison said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
If you miss a day or a workout, don’t worry; hit it again the next day. If what you are doing isn’t working for you, try a different workout, try a different time of day, or try finding new friends.
If 150 minutes of exercise a week sounds overwhelming in the beginning, break it up. Try 30 minutes, five days a week, or 50 minutes three days a week. It also works to do ten minutes here and ten minutes there, just make it count, it all adds up.
The benefits of exercise include stress reduction, better sleep, improved mood, and sharpened focus. These benefits are almost immediate and can be felt right away. The longer-term benefits of reducing your risk for type II diabetes and some types of cancer, controlling your blood pressure, and maintaining a healthy weight will over time, help you to live a longer, healthier life.
The key to establishing and reaping the rewards of exercise is finding that thing you enjoy (or at least don’t hate), doing it with people you like, making it a habit, never giving up, and remembering, someone, somewhere, once said, “No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.”
Kathryn Morrill, FNP
Canyon View Family Medicine